Friday, September 20, 2013

Just so you know . . .

This will be my last blog for a little while.  I have to have more surgery, my last one I hope. I'll be having the rest of my pancreas removed, an insulin pump installed, and learning how to live as a "fragile" diabetic.  Hopefully I'll recover quickly.  My review columns on Meridian will continue; I've written a few ahead and made arrangements for a substitute reviewer, if I can't resume writing as soon as I think I can.

I'll admit I'm more nervous about this surgery than I was the other three this past year.  I'm tired of hospitals, hurting, and the whole business and so ready to get back to my normal life.  Thanks to the many people who have wished me well, showed me so much kindness, and included me in your prayers.

Someone told me I shouldn't announce on my blog or facebook that I'd be having surgery, but between my brothers and sons-in-law someone will be at my house most of the time my husband will be at the hospital with me and I have a couple of highly vigilant neighbors. I also pay an alarm company enough that I shouldn't have to worry about unauthorized visitors.

On the upside, recovery will give me lots of time to read!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I don't watch much television, but for some reason over the past few weeks I've drifted into watching Ninja Warrior--at least I think that's what it's called.  It's a show taking place in Las Vegas where the various contestants compete on an obstacle course hoping to be proclaimed the first American Ninja Warrior.  Most of the contestants wind up falling from rolling drums, swinging cables, or some other dangerous obstacle into the water below.  The few who actually make it through to the end of the course seem to me to be the ones who are neither cocky and arrogant nor nervous and hesitant, and they are the ones I find myself cheering for.  They're often the ones who have a band of family and friends cheering for them too. Life's a lot like that.  Sure sometimes the cocky and arrogant appear to be the winners and sometimes the nervous Nellys luck out, but overall I think those who succeed in this life and feel good about their accomplishments are the ones who approach challenges with a mixture of confidence and humility. They're the ones who want to win for their loved one's sake and when they win they turn first to their family instead of the TV cameras and the pretty young woman there to interview them. 

Because I'm a writer and over the years I've become accustomed to drawing parallels between most things that happen around me and writing, humor me as I draw a few parallels between writers and that Ninja show.  To even compete the contestants spend years working out in gyms, rock climbing, running marathons, eating right, and doing whatever it takes to build the strength, speed, and endurance needed to qualify.  Writers, too, need to do what it takes to qualify.  This usually means a lot of reading, attending writing classes and conferences, observing both physical and human nature, studying language and grammar, and learning the art of self-discipline.  (The self-discipline is necessary to keep us writing instead of playing on face book, watching TV, or cleaning the house instead of writing.) 

We have to be confident enough of our ability to actually finish what we start and submit it to a publisher or agent and to keep writing when we get those inevitable rejection letters.  We also need to be humble enough to learn from or at least live with poor reviews when we finally do get published. 

I feel great sympathy for the contestants who fall in the water after they've worked and trained so hard.  I feel great sympathy for writers who spend years perfecting a book then meet with one rejection after another. I can't help admiring those contestants who come back after failing, sometimes three or four years straight.  I also admire writers who take those rejections, work harder, and resubmit their manuscripts. 

My senior high school English seminar teacher, who knew I wanted to be a writer gave me some advice I've always remembered following some gushing remarks from a visiting writers' club president who compared my style to Hemingway's.  He said "Don't compare yourself to other writers. Be yourself.  But always remember you're better than someone, but someone out there is better than you."  I'm often asked at book signings and by those who dream of a writing career what advice I would give them.  Sometimes I pass on my teacher's advice and sometimes I simply say, "Read everything you can get your hands on.  Write something even if it's a journal entry or a shopping list every day. Join a critique group and stop talking long enough to listen to what the others have to say. Finish what you start and submit it; when you get it back, fix it and submit it again." 

Win or lose, luck sometimes plays a role, but hard work and perseverance are the attributes that can be counted on to take writers or Ninjas to the next level.


Thursday, September 5, 2013


Last week I attended a dinner for Covenant writers and employees.  We got lost on the way; MapQuest really blew the directions and we wound up near the Timpanogas temple, miles from the dinner.  Fortunately a friendly guy at the local Arctic Circle gave us real and useful directions. I had a chance to chat with Clair Poulson, Nancy Allen, Josi Kilpack, Heather Moore, and a host of other writers.  Speaking of Clair, I reviewed his latest novel today.  You can find it here.  

I don't usually review YA novels, but I recently read two I heartily endorse.  Hadley-Hadley Benson
by Jody Wind Durfee and A Nothing Named Silas by Steve Westover.  The first is about a high school student who falls for the new girl next door who has a twin brother with Asperger's. The second is a dystopian novel that shows the relationship between a completely controlled society and slavery. 

Many of you have asked about the medical problems I've had this past year.  I've had two total knee replacements and three fourths of my pancreas removed.  I'm doing really well.  I can eat almost normal and I've been able to return to serving in the temple for almost two months.  Unfortunately I still have to have one more surgery. In a couple of weeks the rest of my pancreas will be removed along with all of the attendant rearrangement and removal of various body parts that entails.  I'll be in the hospital at least a week and while I'm gone, any time my husband isn't home, my brothers and sons-in-law will hang out at our place.  An adult grandson has offered to just move in for awhile.

Last Friday we went to the Sheepdog Trials in Soldier's Hollow near Heber.  We went with our son and his wife and our two youngest granddaughters.  The little girls loved the dogs, the Baas (sheep), and a huge owl that was part of one of the displays.  They also loved lots of ice water and ice cream. It was a fun day and brought back a lot of memories from when my father raised sheep and the dogs we had.

It's time to go brush my teeth and leave for the temple.  Have a great day!